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BRAND X: Big Chill

Brand: Prada
Agency: in-house
Creative Director: David James
Photographer: Robert Wyatt


Misery loves company -- and an audience. In a print campaign that has been playing out like a soap opera in the fashion glossies, Prada places a young, modish couple in a starkly lit, antiseptic interior. He's a lanky, glum fellow in the Timothy Hutton-circa-Ordinary People mold. She's got one of those Chloë Sevigny faces that conveys nothing but numbness. In some of the ads, he's shirtless; in others, she's pulling a sweater over her bare shoulders. It takes an installment or two to realize that we seem to be watching them in postcoital mid-argument -- and you get the sense that some terrible truth has just surfaced between them. In this little set piece, the magazine reader is cast in the familiar role of voyeur, charged with piecing together the story from a few elliptical, freeze-frame moments. Unlike Gucci's similarly theatrical current campaign (Fellini-esque party scenes in which everyone stares at the camera -- right at you, as if you've just made a grand entrance), Prada's is a private drama that's intentionally discomfiting to view. But who can resist the spectacle of a good fight? In the wake of American Beauty's Oscar sweep, Prada's embrace of the darker undercurrents feels pitch-perfect -- a timely reminder of just how oddly compelling it is to watch beautiful, dysfunctional people -- from a safe distance.


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